One of the big benefits of pursuing professional guide qualifications under the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) is that it has opened up new working opportunities that before were just not possible. For example, I have been very very fortunate in New Zealand, where I am working for Alpine Guides Limited. They run a number of guiding operations which I thought I'd describe briefly in this blog post. I am still very new in the organization, but so far being part of a tight professional team of guides has added a lot of context and meaning to the avalanche and guide training I've taken over the years. And it will certainly make me a much better guide in my home town of Hakuba, Japan. Living and operating in Hakuba is more than great, but professionally it is so valuable to get out into other operational environments, particularly ones which are more demanding than my home zone in Japan.
The following guiding operations all fall under the same umbrella. It is very exciting and quite humbling for me to be associated with such a diverse range of guiding activities.
Alpine Guides Limited are based in Mount Cook Village, and what a spot that is! They offer heli-camp ski touring, avalanche training, hut based ski touring and winter/summer alpine climbing and glacier hiking. So far I have been involved with some avalanche training and will be on the guiding team for heli-camp ski touring in September. The idea is we all fly into a zone, set up a base camp, and go ski/splitboard touring for 4 days. Which sounds like exactly my kind of thing.
So far I have spent the most time with Methven Heli - both involved with regular heliskiing, and also heli-accessed ski tour guiding in remote parts of the mountains. And... so far I believe the claims that we ski the best heli ski terrain in NZ. Certainly the mountain area we cover is very large, the options diverse, and sometimes, the runs can be really pretty big. Some would find them a little intimidating. Becoming a good heliski guide takes a few seasons, and I am very lucky to be part of an experienced team. All the other guides have been working here for a long time (a great sign). And a huge percentage of customers are return customers (another great sign). It is important not to forget where I came from and not to take these things for granted.
This is a new take on heli skiing in NZ and the Mount Cook region. The tenure is massive, and involves numerous diverse mountain ranges which helps manage conditions. Besides a day watching over as a film crew did their thing, I have not really been involved with MCHS yet, however the the opportunity is there to be called in to help out with busy days in the future. My Japanese friend, Taichiro (Tai) Naka, guides with them and loves it. He is working on his full mountain guide certification with the NZMGA. If I were a committed heliskier from Europe or North America, I'd be booking 10 days in August or September at the Hermitage in Mt Cook Village and going heli skiing every good day with these guys. It is classic destination heliskiing, with a very experienced guide team in a unique and intense mountain location.
This guiding service makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. You fly into the the top of the huge Tasman Glacier by ski plane, rather than helicopter. Then land on the glacier, and do a few very very long runs with the plane as a ski lift. Like heliskiing, but more peaceful. This is a great way to get regular skiers and boarders into a mountain environment in which they might never have dreamed of riding. In my past experiences, some of the most rewarding guiding moments have come from helping new customers in situations just like this.
So come heliskiing, or heli-camp touring, or any of the above in New Zealand! Amazingly, a few heliskiers here have already been regular followers of the Hakuba MountainLife Facebook page. I hope I meet more of you in the future. If you want to arrange some helicamp ski touring, get in touch!